Using information from a Chevrolet Cavalier that was found abandoned on Ga. 136, less than a mile from the murder scene at Mountain Top Boys’ Home in Villanow, police traced it to 21-year-old Donnie Allen Hulett.
A nationwide search is under way for Hulett with an emphasis on south Georgia and Florida, Sheriff Wilson Tuesday.
Hulett is described as a white man, 5 feet , 11 inches tall, 160 pounds, black hair and brown eyes, with multiple tattoos on his shoulder and right breast.
Although he is only wanted for questioning, Wilson said, Hulett should be considered armed and dangerous.
The sheriff said Hulett might be traveling to Telfair County, located about two counties away from where he was spotted, to stay with a relative.
“We’re moving pretty quick on this,” Wilson said. Hulett, known as DJ, is currently wanted in Bartow County for vehicle theft.
Authorities said they became interested in him after witnesses from Calhoun said Hulett stayed with them Saturday and Sunday.
Late Sunday Hulett disappeared with the Cavalier that was found broken down on the side of the road Monday as well as a 12-gauge shotgun and a 30.06 rifle from the witnesses’ home.
“When the guns and car showed up missing, Hulett showed up missing,” said Sheriff Wilson. “We feel confident we’re going in the right direction.”
The sheriff said Hulett was spotted in Tift County around 10 p.m. Monday trying to sell one of the weapons from the Calhoun theft.
The sheriff said he was still driving a 2000 Ford F150 truck that matched the description of the one taken from the murder victims in Villanow.
Police earlier identified the victims as Larry Phelps, 62, a retired Whitfield County educator from Dalton and his brother Arvin Phelps, a retired Dalton State College professor from Rocky Face.
Larry Phelps belonged to Trinity United Methodist Church and his brother belonged to First United Methodist Church in Dalton, where a friend said they were very active.
The boys’ home is located between LaFayette and Calhoun in the Chattahoochee National Forest and has been operated by the United Methodist Church from Greater Atlanta since 1980.
Formerly the residence of a forest ranger, the home has been converted and is used for boys between the ages of 14 and 18 who have been adjudicated by the courts.
Church officials said the home is used for education and social nurturing. The camp was in operation at the time of the murder but operations there were suspended Monday.
Memorial service for victims
Alton Conway, a board member with the Dalton District for United Methodist Men of North Georgia, said eight campers at the home would return Saturday and take part in a memorial service for the brothers.
The Phelpses were using chainsaws to clear land for an expansion at the rear of the camp when the suspect probably approached them, police theorize.
Wilson said the Cavalier broke down along the highway around 6:30 p.m. Sunday and its driver either spent the night in the car or in the woods.
When the brothers arrived to work Monday morning they were attacked. He said both men suffered blunt force trauma to the head before being shot and robbed. Conway said the men died doing a job that received little praise.
“Larry was one of the sweetest, kindest, humble, gentle person you would want to talk to,” he said, adding that his brother was almost identical in nature.
The friend said he still had a voice mail message from Larry Phelps asking how many more trees needed to be removed for the chapel and amphitheater being constructed.
He said if he had responded more promptly the men might have decided to work another day and avoided their attacker.
He said the brothers were able to minister to the troubled youths through their “Christ-like demeanor and quiet leadership.”
Conway said the men were “daily giving to other people.” As the campers left Monday, Conway said, he could tell by the remarks that were being made that the Phelpses had a strong influence on the boys without directly ministering to them.
“They were just people trying to do the right thing,” he said.
A memorial park at the boys’ home is currently being discussed but the United Methodist Men said they want to work to fulfill the wish of Larry Phelps by filling every pew of his church with Bibles.
Individual funeral services for the men have been tentatively scheduled for Thursday at their churches, Conway said